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Couturing magic

Poonam Bhagat's label `Taika' means magic, and she is endeavouring to create it in her ensembles which are marked by an understated elegance.

FOR ONE who turned a designer by accident about twelve years ago, Poonam Bhagat has carved a niche for herself in the Indian fashion industry. Having always made clothes for herself and advising friends, Poonam decided to have a small exhibition in 1991which to her surprise was a virtual sell out. A subsequent one too was successful. The artistic spark in her was ignited and she was motivated to start her own label Taika. Today Taika is one of the well-known labels in the country.

Poonam's `spirited' attitude is reflected in her clothes. About the choice of an unusual name for a label, she says , "I wanted a short and succinct name which would encompass a whole lot of things and unusual as well. I was reading a book on Finland and I stumbled upon this word Taika which means magic. I thought about it for a day and scribbled it a few times on paper. A friend who dropped in saw it and asked me what Taika was. When I told her that I was contemplating to use it as a label she said it was wonderful. That clinched it and Taika was `born'."

Poonam set up a small unit, which has grown over the decade to include about thirty people. By travelling in her initial years for sourcing fabrics she built a rapport with weavers and suppliers from Chanderi, Bhagalpur, Surat and South India. Poonam also develops the weaves and fabrics together. Now her travelling has stopped as the materials come to her.

She likes to use natural fabrics - silks, tussars, cottons, crepes and so on which are not embroidered or textured. Her creations are marked by subtle embellishments - embroidery - machine and hand-made with the use of sequins or mokaish. Her traditional motifs are inspired from books on textiles. Another distinguishing feature of her clothes is the textures on the fabric which impart a new dimension to the fabric - the fine detailing like beading, pin-tucks, pleating, anchor thread stitching and so on. She is now adapting the Shiboori technique in her saris as well.

How would she define her line of garments? "Understated and elegant which do not drown the person wearing it, rather enhance their look. These are perennial silhouettes - classic - which do not go out of vogue," she says. Does she strictly stick to fashion trends? "I may be motivated by fashion trends in terms of colours and perhaps let them dictate hem lines but I am definitely not a slave to trends. I try to strike a balance between traditional and modern." What about European fashion forecasts? "I do not stick to European colours. I choose colours which look good on the Indian skin tones."

Ask her about fashion trends today and she is quick to reply "anything goes - from kitsch to classic. There is everything and mixing and matching is the order of the day."

SOLD OUT: Poonam Bhagat has made a niche for herself.

Today there is a predominance of Indo-Western - trousers teamed with short or knee-length kurtas with stoles. Analysing its popularity, Poonam says: We owe it to the West. Hollywood icons adopted Indian clothes in their own way. There is a lot of exposure today thanks to MTV and the hippie culture - evocative of the Seventies, is `back' There are some women today who are not allowed to wear purely Western wear in their homes and the Indo-Westerns have a kurtas and a stole as well. They are functional too." How long is the phase of the short kurta? "Not too long. Perhaps next year. Fashion is so unpredictable. But the knee-length kurta is classic and conventional," she says.

Style, according to Poonam, "is what you are - your whole being, how you accessorise and not just the outfit you wear."

Has the Lakme India Fashion Week had its impact on designers? " It has brought in buyers for the designers and it is a good platform for young, old and new designers. Some of the designers are selling abroad but it is still in the nascent stage."

Is the cut more important than embellishments? "Definitely. The cut is the basic foundation of the garment. If it does not fall well and if the garment is not finished well, then the garment will not sell."

Poonam is constantly looking at colours and co-ordinations in everything around her. For her mind is continuously evolving designs. Fashion is a 24-hour job for her. "It's subliminal - ingrained in the psyche. I am inspired by the strangest of all things - it could be even the waves lashing the sea shore, leaves, grains... and so on. And so she goes on creating with this inspiration and that provided by her clientele.


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